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  • Dancing the Body Politic: Obon and Bon-odori

    Deborah Wong

    Chapter from the book: Wong, D. 2019. Louder and Faster: Pain, Joy, and the Body Politic in Asian American Taiko.


    This chapter addresses the history and practice of Southern California Japanese American bon-odori, or participatory Buddhist circle dances performed as part of the summer Obon festival. The author argues that it is a key means through which Japanese American community is continuously reconstituted in explicitly Buddhist terms. Rev. Mas Kodani’s theorization of bon-odori as a loss of ego is addressed in detail. Rev. Yoshio Iwanaga’s choreographic work in the 1930s-40s and the organizational roles of the Buddhist Church of America and the Southern District Dharma School Teachers’ League in coordinating the annual bon-odori dance set are described. The relationship between kumi-daiko and bon drumming (bon daiko) is explored, with attention to the relatively small number of bon drummers and recent efforts to train younger musicians. Two dances, “Bon-odori Uta” and “Tanko Bushi,” are described in detail. The importance of bon-odori in the Manzanar Pilgrimage is discussed. Attention is paid to the creation of contemporary bon-odori by three Japanese American artists (Nobuko Miyamoto, PJ Hirabayashi, and Michelle Fujii).

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    Wong, D. 2019. Dancing the Body Politic: Obon and Bon-odori. In: Wong, D, Louder and Faster. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.71.d

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on Sept. 10, 2019


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